Welcome to my Blog. Feel free to follow the below links.
MMO's, Books, Movies, Philosophy, Horse Racing, Business, Scheduled Maintenance

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Making a Raid 101

There are many MMO's out that feature an endgame activity known as Raiding. The idea is generally that Raiding and it Dungeon associates will serve as the endgame for PvE encounters. Raiding is suppose to be where your story leads to or finishes in a given expansion. Since Raiding is tied directly to the story progression of a game it inherently features the most influential and powerful characters a game will have to offer. This means for the players to accept the story of the game these characters must present believablilty in their strength to be in the situation they are in. If it only took a hard poke to kill Arthas players would stop caring about killing him. This is why raiding kills drop down significantly on older content. If it is way to trivialized it breaks the game. Generally this requires expansion level trivialization to break older content. So in general people need to believe what they are participating in should defeat the enemy they are raiding(unless its Prince Kael). To this end raiding features larger numbers of players to accomodate immersion then most experiences players take place in.

So now we come to the part of designing the raid. This is where the Holy Trinity of gaming comes in. Damage Reduction, Damage Healing and Damage Dealing. Incredible variations of these three elements is what makes up both the Boss fights and the players who participate in the raid. These three elements are presented to the players at a certain level of challenge to make the game fun. The most note worthy thing about all Raiding I have encountered is that the skill requirement of each element of the Raid is fixed for each encounter. The players however are tossed at the encounter rather randomly in that for example the same tank may not mitigate the same amount of damage as he would in the same encounter due to mistakes or even RNG. Since mistakes impact the player level contribution of the three elements of raiding there is then the input of player skill in determining raiding success. It is also note worthy that to fail in any element of the raid will cause the party to be defeated. In a previous post I broke skill down into its components. These were a goal, knowledge, execution and adjustments to knowledge. Raiding is therefore the goal to which you must have the knowledge of the encounter mechanically, be able to react to using the knowledge of the encounter and be able to make adjustments based on the dynamic qualities of a raiding party. This is usually how raiding plays out in a very simplified way.

Since trivialization of content is often a measure of skill relative to the fixed elements of an encounter we can assume that for the encounter to be immersive and therefor fun the raid must offer a skill level suited to the players in the raid. Since these skill levels are not constant in non-exclusive groups encounters that don't offer variable skill levels within themselves will cause continued failure when skill is capped. It is also easy to assume that only exclusive groups will be able to handle high skilled content. Randomized grouping prevents high skilled content from being possible.

To make a raid what you are trying to do is hit players below their skill if they were first to attempt it and then by the process of them reaching their skill cap for the encounter overcome it. Simply if they overcome it immediately they won't have fun, nor would you be able to keep up content production in all likelihood. If they can't overcome the encounter they will eventually stop having fun as failing completely sucks. By hitting that sweet spot of difficulty people become better at the encounter and complete it over a longer period of time while having a blast. The core of this is that if you expect to be bringing in a random of selection of skilled players you need a more varied option of skill components of the encounter to facilitate the players brought. That is how you make a great raid.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Why SWTOR is Losing Subscriptions

So TOR's latest report saw the game drop from 1.7M to 1.3M. A nice drop of almost a quarter of their subs. Why is the most expensive game ever at launch seemingly faltering?

There are many reasons why SWTOR is having trouble. Firstly there are a plethora of available MMO's in the themepark genre that it has to compete with. This makes it more important to be able to hold onto your current subscribers then even to simply attract new ones. If players can finish your game they will move on because there are alot of options out there.

So obviously where SWTOR is faltering is in holding subs instead of generating new ones. What keeps people subbed is simply having fun combined with a nexus of agreements between various people that make you feel obligated to play.

To be honest there are so many ways for fun to occur or be incurred that it's almost in vain to try and pinpoint where the fun needs to be or is where it currently is fun. Personal preference being so skewed that without actually doing a component study of the game's features would be functionally useless. I will however note one key thing that does reduce fun in general and I believe are present in SWTOR.  Repetition decreases fun. For me tab and click combat is featured in so many MMO's that bringing nothing fundamentally different here means that combat is very similar to other games. Personally I think if you are bored with WoW's combat and jump into TOR you will also be bored with it combat wise. Where I would look to improve combat would be through a complete overhaul of the entire system baseing it on your crew for all PvE encounters. They wouldn't be a glorified pet but intead be a team you run in groups of four. They would operate using various preset commands similar to Bioware's Dragon Age games. It certainly would make operations seem like huge battles with 20 man teams each featuring 60 companions. Also it would allow for expanded solo gameplay of various difficulty since companions can perform the role of tank and such for various healer player types. Introducing dynamic gameplay that people are unfamiliar with usually generates lots of player activity.

The second thing SWTOR needs to work on is making players obligated to each other. The leveling game in TOR does not feature the forming of agreements between players easily. For me this is something that MMO's of late have messed up. WoW is successful because of agreements between it's players that keep them playing. Many other things have made WoW a success mainly being first to do alot of things ease of use wise. If you want a look at another game that has quite possibly the most unintuitive UI out there that is successful is Eve Online. It is solely based on players wanting to control regions of space and the incredible amount of connections between it's players that makes people so obligated to a goal. Personally I think mainstream games should be looking at integrating ideas in social media such as facebook and twitter into their guild interface. Cross server friending and out of server preformed grouping should also be integrated to help mitigate the effects of LFG on agreements. I also believe TOR should adopt Rift's free server transfers to help accomodate this. How Legacy would work with this I have no idea. Perhaps even Legacy should be removed to allow the feature. Perhaps reworked to allow the effects of your alts to change eachother's story.

Finally produce more content period. Produce Pod Racing and PvP space combat. These are alternatives to BG style combat that many people are getting very use to. Make a server vs server planet that features large numbers of players. Top grade story with choices needs to be streamlined with the removal of alot of the pointless side questing while producing the character stories that are top notch. Have custom Droid battles for players. Planet events to break up the staticness of the enitre game would be nice.

To be short, people are leaving because in general it isn't fun enough, they are running out of content and they have very few player based reasons to keep playing. They need to get a game plan and dump alot of money into redesign.